Saturday, January 27, 2007

Military Manual Allows Both Coerced and Hearsay Testimony to be Used Against Terror Suspects

According to a recent report, the Pentagon has drafted a manual for upcoming detainee trials that would allow suspected terrorists to be convicted on both hearsay evidence and coerced testimony and imprisoned or put to death.

According to a copy of the manual, a terror suspect's defense can’t reveal classified evidence that could be used in the person's defense until the government has had a chance to review it.

The manual, sent to Capitol Hill on Thursday and scheduled to be released later by the Pentagon, is intended to track a law passed last fall by Congress restoring President Bush's plans to have special military commissions try terror-war prisoners. Those commissions had been struck down earlier in the year by the Supreme Court.

As required by law, the manual prohibits statements obtained by torture and "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" as prohibited by the Constitution. However, the law does allow statements obtained through coercive interrogation techniques if obtained before Dec. 30, 2005, and deemed reliable by a judge.

Nearly 400 detainees suspected of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban are still being held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, while about 380 others have been transferred or released.

The Defense Department is currently planning trials for at least 10 suspects. Under the law, only individuals selected for military trial are given access to a lawyer and judge; other military detainees can be held until hostilities cease.

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